Gorillas-owned biker platform Street Fleet is laying off over 100 bikers and is set to close
Street Fleet, a Berlin-based transportation hub owned by besieged fast start grocery store Gorillas, a announced to its more than 100 passengers that it would close at the end of July, leaving many of them unemployed.
Riders tell Sifted they don’t know if they’ll get all the money owed to them by Street Fleet. The platform – which provides couriers to Gorillas and other Berlin-based delivery companies such as Delivery Hero – was accused of failing to pay runners for up to three months, leading to protests in Berlin over the weekend.
Gorillas says he offered to hire a “significant number of Street Fleet riders into his own crew,” but didn’t specify how many.
The shutdown of Street Fleet is the latest sign that Gorillas, which achieved unicorn status within nine months of launch and raised more than $1.2 billion from VCs, is struggling in changing market conditions.
Two weeks ago Handelsblatt reported that Gorillas was struggling to raise new investment, and that the entry of a “strategic investor” or a sale to a competitor could be on the cards.rds. The gorillas also recently lost two of their most experienced HR executiveswithdrew from Belgium and closed its main distribution center in the Netherlands.
Gorillas, which owns 100% of the shares of Street Fleet, according to documents seen by Sifted, says it’s all part of a company refocus: “Following Gorillas’ recent shift in strategic focus from operational activities to a focus on its five core markets and brand, combined with growing uncertainty in the market, Street Fleet had to announce the retrenchment of its operations.”
The company did not comment on its fundraising plans, but told Sifted that he has a “healthy running rate”.
Street Fleet came under fire last week from riders, some of whom claimed they had not been paid for their work for up to three months.
Street Fleet riders are employed on contracts guaranteeing them a set number of hours: some work full-time, some part-time, and others have what are called mini-jobs, where the monthly salary maximum is €450 per month or the maximum workload. is 70 days per calendar year. They are not “gig” workers.
In the case of the missing payments for May – which should have been paid on June 15 – the riders said they immediately alerted Street Fleet to the problem, but payments did not start flowing to riders until June 29.
Five days prior, Fleet Street employees had been notified by email that the company had attempted another ‘payroll run’ and had ‘successfully completed approximately half of the remaining payments’ for the month alone. of June. But, according to the email, errors in personal data had prevented the rest of the payments from going through.
“I also haven’t received my bounty for over three months now – but I don’t even bother to raise it again as I know it has no impact”
The company added that it would pay “an advance of 60% of the missing salary” to those who had not been paid. According to 10 runners Sifted spoke to, some were paid 60%; others have paid nothing.
Asked about late payments, Gorillas told Sifted: “Street Fleet’s payroll was, until this incident (along with salaries this month), in the hands of a contractor, who made a serious mistake in handling the salaries of Street Fleet riders. NOTneither Gorillas nor Street Fleet would explain why it took up to three months in some cases for payment issues to be recorded, measured and processed.
Complaints about late payments have been filed against Gorillas in the past. Last June, when biker protests erupted in Berlin over poor working conditions, one of the key demands was for the pay to be fair and on time – but runners tell Sifted the issues of late or late payment persist.
One rider, who prefers to remain anonymous, told Sifted that she is part of a WhatsApp group of 15 riders specifically created to share information on how to resolve payment issues with Gorillas.
“Earlier this year, in March and April, I didn’t receive my salary due to pay issues – which was really difficult given that I had just moved to Berlin from South America,” says- she. “I also haven’t received my bounty for over three months now – but I don’t even bother to raise it anymore as I know it has no impact.”
Gorillas says it has improved its payment processes and now only 1-3% of payments have discrepancies.
Payroll issues aren’t the only HR issue riders have encountered at Street Fleet. Seven runners tell Sifted they still haven’t received payslips for two months – a legal requirement in Germany.
Sifted understands that Street Fleet passengers should be able to access their payslips through the company’s Automatic Data Processing (ADP) payroll system. But four runners tell Sifted they were still requesting access months after they started working for the company.
So while most runners have now been paid for the month of May, they don’t know if they were adequately compensated for missed payments before this month – or, indeed, if payment problems will follow.
“I think [the salary is about right] but I do not know. I don’t have access to the ADP portal, so I won’t know until I see a payslip,” says Pearl, an Asian rider who has lived in Berlin for over a year. She does not want to give her real name for fear of reprisals from her employer.
“I don’t know if they will pay us on July 15 for June. They already paid so late for May with hundreds of apologies,” said a rider, who did not want to give his name. “It’s been chaos the last three months.”
Health insurance is also a problem. Three riders who worked full-time at Street Fleet tell Sifted they haven’t received health insurance since they started with the company. In Germany, employers are legally obliged to subsidize health insurance for full-time employees. Individuals who do not have adequate coverage can be fined up to 14 months of contributions to a maximum of €639.38 per month.
In an email seen by Sifted, where riders complained to Street Fleet about the lack of insurance coverage, the company said employees failed to provide the correct information and documents needed to set up their health insurance with insurers.
Street Fleet did not elaborate on what possible issues could have been with employee health insurance, but said: ‘We have done and continue to do everything necessary to comply with all legal requirements. This obviously includes the application for compulsory insurance.
Closure of the street fleet
Internal emails seen by Sifted say Street Fleet is closing July 31 – and riders wonder if they’ll get all the money they’re owed.
“They said they were going to close at the end of July,” says John, a biker who moved to Berlin from southern Europe less than a year ago. “Even when the business is still active, it’s hard to find someone to talk to. You email, then there’s a delay.
“If they close on July 31, how will the August 15 payment be made?”
He adds: “We have two payments – one for June and one for July – which are supposed to be paid on the 15th of the following month. But if they close on July 31, how will payment for August 15 be made? We are unable to obtain information on this. And what if they don’t pay us then? »
Street Fleet tells Sifted that the business closure “is not related to pay issues. All riders will be fully paid until the end of their individual contracts. We are truly sorry for the situation of our riders and have been very open and transparent with them.
For three Street Fleet riders, unpaid wages have left them close to destitution and they fear finding new jobs soon. A rider named Rose, who works for the company with her partner, says: “I asked[Street Fleet]to have at least one Gorillas coupon; they never answered me. With my boyfriend, we literally have €10 in our account, so we had to ask a friend for money to pay the rent.[StreetFleet)tohaveatleastaGorillascoupon;theyneveransweredmeWithmyboyfriendweliterallyhave€10inouraccountsowehadtoaskafriendformoneytopayrent”[StreetFleet)tohaveatleastaGorillascoupon;theyneveransweredmeWithmyboyfriendweliterallyhave€10inouraccountsowehadtoaskafriendformoneytopayrent”
Gurdeep, another rider, tells Sifted that his family sold their house in India for him to come to Germany for his studies. His student visa is about to expire – and without one he can’t apply for another job.
“Once it expires, I can’t leave the country, I can’t apply for other jobs. And now I have been fired from this job,” he said.
“I’ve already paid my rent for next month. After that, I have no idea. »
A new platform of riders
Two runners tell Sifted that when they applied directly to Gorillas earlier this year, they were told by email that Gorillas was not hiring in Berlin, but another company was. The same email, sent to several people, reads: “However, a new player in the delivery scene called Street Fleet is currently recruiting and offering an hourly wage of €12, flexible hours and a signature of € 200. Please apply through this link if you are interested in working with them. The email was signed “Your Gorillas Rider Growth Crew”.
Now that Street Fleet is closing, riders are advised to apply for another platform. In an email to riders on June 30, Street Fleet recommended that riders apply to Quickzii Delivery, a “Berlin-based third-party logistics company” that offers part-time jobs to passengers.
The email reads: “This opportunity is with another independent employer, not Street Fleet, and is not a guarantee of employment. Street Fleet is not involved in the application process or selection If you are selected, you will receive a new contract with the new employer.
A Street Fleet employee who prefers to remain anonymous tells Sifted that they don’t know much about Quickzii — only that it’s looking for riders. Street Fleet management forwarded the ad to its own riders to help them find new jobs, they add.
According to government documents seen by Sifted, Quickzii was incorporated on April 28 by Delivery Hero. Its owner is Managing Director of Delivery Hero, Parham Jabari, and he has no obvious connection to Street Fleet or Gorillas.
Many Street Fleet riders are skeptical about working with Quickzii. At a protest organized by 20 Street Fleet runners on July 2, the group waved a banner depicting a multi-headed beast, with each neck emblazoned with the names of delivery companies. His caption read, “Same shit, different name.”
Miriam Partington is Sifted’s Germany correspondent. It also covers the future of work, co-authors Sifted Startup Life Newsletter and tweets from @mparts_
Pete Carvill is a Berlin-based journalist, writer and editor. He tweets from @pete_carvill